Papalii learns from hard 2014 lessons
Raiders and Kangaroos forward Josh Papalii says he has learned some tough lessons from a difficult 2014 season, which despite being bookended by Kangaroos jerseys featured a loss of form and a short stint in reserve grade.
He has also spoken about life in Canberra without close friend Anthony Milford – who has moved to Brisbane – and praised the positive leadership role Samoa and New Zealand international Sia Soliola has taken since he joined the Raiders from the Super League.
Papalii was part of the Kangaroos side that won the 2013 World Cup, and the one that lost the 2014 Four Nations final. In between he suffered an ankle injury, was left out of the Kangaroos side to face New Zealand in the May Trans-Tasman Test, and suited up for his old Queensland Cup side Souths Logan Magpies on the same weekend the Kangaroos were in action while the NRL was on its representative weekend hiatus.
"Last year was a season where it was up and down; I put my own hand up to go and play with Souths [Logan], it's something I look back to and hopefully learn from last year, the slow start due to injuries and not looking after myself the right way," Papalii told NRL.com.
"I can learn off that and hopefully [have] a big season this year.
"I was in the [Raiders] team last year for the first five rounds then only played a couple of games through the season, then played Q-Cup to try and get myself back into it so I guess you take those lessons and hopefully learn from it. Hopefully we can do some damage for 2015."
Papalii freely admitted that even though it was his call to suit up in the Intrust Super Cup, the rapid fall from grace was "a disappointment".
"I went from being in the World Cup squad, back to playing in Q-Cup which was a disappointment but it made me realise that your spot can just slip away just like that if you don't continue to work hard and stay on top of injuries."
Papalii also admitted he knew injuries to other players were a major factor in his Four Nations call-up; he played prop in a team missing the likes of Matt Scott, James Tamou, Paul Gallen and Nate Myles.
"I think the biggest thing for me [in staying fit] is my diet. To be announced in the Four Nations squad, I do know there were a few injuries there and I got in because of injuries but I was lucky enough to play in that side and regroup as a player.
"It is a bit different to start in the front row but I was pretty comfortable to fill in. They were big shoes to fill with players like Matty Scott and Jimmy Tamou. It's a big role to take and I don't know how I went but we made it to final and just slipped away at the end, but I couldn't be happier to be announced in the team."
He added it was the first pre-season in a while where he hasn't had knee or ankle issues.
"Last year I started off pretty slow, this year I've come back in better shape and injury-free so hopefully I get a good start to the season."
Papalii was very close to a fellow player of Samoan descent in former Raiders teammate Anthony Milford, now a star signing at the Broncos. While the two stay in regular contact, Papalii said he has been boosted by Canberra's recruitment of another Samoan, former Rooster Sia Soliola, from St Helens.
"Me and Milf are pretty close and I still talk to him now, he tells me how the Broncs are going and I tell him how good we're going," he said.
"Just having Sia around the place I guess it helps us young fellas realise that time does pass, good people are still around.
"I guess having [Soliola] here opens your eyes a bit more, he teaches us that we're not going to play for the rest of our lives so we've got to make the most of it and he's showing the way.
"He's been in the NRL system, he's played for New Zealand, also Samoa at the highest levels as well. Most people know what he can do on the field. Off the field, he's very humble, from day one he came and he gave me a call and said he'll be there for me.
"Ever since he's been here he's helped me off the field with issues I do need help with. It's always good having an older head around training who understands what you're going through and he's a big help for us younger players."
Papalii described Soliola as one of the most important leaders at the club.
"Not only he helps myself and a few other boys on the field but also off the field, makes us train harder, we come here prepared, we're doing stuff we usually don't do, staying on top of our diet and being more professional around HQ."